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Four College Students Win Wilderness Writing Contest

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Four College Students Win Wilderness Writing Contest
Expressed Reasons State Should Expand High Peaks Wilderness Area

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. –Two Northeast college students will get a free airplane flight over the state’s tallest mountains as top prize winners of a writing contest that asked them to pen letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo explaining why the state should expand the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Two more writers won outdoor gear for their efforts.

Top prize winners were Drexel University student Elisabeth Rundell of Lincoln, MA, and Hamilton College student Jack Wright of West Hartford, CT. Second prize went to Hamilton College student Hannah Lasher of Cobleskill who won an Osprey Hiking Pack , and third prize went to Colgate University student Nicholas Knoke, who won a gift certificate for outdoor gear.

The Adirondack Council sponsored the contest as part of the #BeWildNY Campaign. A coalition of conservation organizations is calling on state officials to classify as Wilderness several parcels of recently purchased state Forest Preserve lands that had been off-limits to the public for more than 150 years. Each of the parcels fits into the High Peaks Wilderness Area (HPWA) like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece.

In all, the coalition is calling for 35,000 acres of new Wilderness to be added to the HPWA. Their addition would also connect the HPWA to the nearby Dix Mountain Wilderness Area, creating a single Wilderness of 280,000 acres. The expanded HPWA It would be larger than many national parks.

The groups launched the web site to explain the effort.

“We are thrilled to see college students embracing the coalition’s High Peaks Wilderness expansion plan and joining the #BeWildNY movement,” said Greg Redling, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for the Adirondack Council. “Thousands of people of all ages have written letters on behalf of the Wilderness expansion plan so far, with more joining us each day. We had a blast reading through the college students’ letters -- which had to be submitted by mid-May -- and choosing the winners.

“We are also well aware of how hard it is for college students to take on an additional writing assignment during the school year, so we want to give some extra thanks to everyone who made the effort,” Redling said. “We will make sure all the letters are delivered to all the state officials who will decide whether these lands become Wilderness. So whether writers won a top prize or not, they can take pride in the fact that they stepped up and made a strong contribution to the public record for this decision. They did their part in the struggle to preserve wilderness.”

“It is truly inspiring to see the next generation of conservationists step up and make themselves heard on behalf of wilderness,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “It’s good to know there are young people willing to take the time to understand the issue and make an impact on the outcome.”

Excerpts from the contest winners’ letters:

Elisabeth Rundell: “Without the human population taking an active role in the preservation of our wild spaces, they will rapidly be overtaken by industry and urbanization … For too long Western America has been the face of the wilderness preservation front – it’s time to bring it home, to the Adirondacks.”

Jack Wright: “The Wilderness areas reach an audience that respects undisturbed forest, an audience that would be lost if the land were Wild Forest” where motorized recreation is allowed.

Hannah Lasher: “We cannot watch the Adirondack Park gradually lose the wild character that defines it, but must make the most of our opportunities to expand on it … Now is not the time to make small concessions with big consequences.”

Nicholas Knoke: “Right now is a time of growing awareness to the importance and necessity of conservation and respectful land management … take this opportunity to enlarge the High Peaks Wilderness; for all the people who have recently made upstate NY home, for all the people who have always called the Adirondacks home, and even for those who have yet to discover this majestic land.”

To be eligible, writers were required to be enrolled in a two or four year college. Entries were judged by their writing quality, the effectiveness of their arguments in favor of wilderness, and their level of creativity. Entries had to be between 500 and 1000 words, formatted properly and addressed to the Governor. Authors were allowed only one entry.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant, local communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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